18 Ways to Help You Get Bigger Tips as a Server or Waitress
How Much Do Servers Make?
Would you be surprised to find out that many of the people in hospitality positions do not make minimum wage? Instead, most of them make a living from the tips they receive from customers. Waitresses, servers, and some bartenders are all paid on a tip based salary, and usually make half of minimum wage each hour.
Many restaurants and bars depend on this monetary system to pay their employees so they do not have to pay full minimum wage, thus allowing them more room for profits.
Some places will add gratuity right onto the check to ensure a waitress gets her money, but most places do not do this. They leave the option of weather to tip, and how much, to the customers.
If you work in a food service industry, and make a living from tips, you will want to ensure you are making the highest tips possible from each table. There are several ways to do this, and we are going to look at a few of the lesser known ways to increase your tips below.
1. A Smile is Part of Your Uniform!
That's right, smile until it hurts baby! Great them with a smile, and don't let them see you without it the rest of their visit! I know this can be hard, especially if you find yourself dealing with a difficult customer, but it really is the most important thing you can do!
Studies have shown, that both men and women find people who smile and make eye contact more attractive then those who do not. Additionally, when you smile at someone it activates a part of their brain that makes them feel like they have been given a reward, and they are more likely to feel the need to return that favor; Cha Ching!
Do not worry little one, your customers are not the only ones to benefit from your beautiful smile! Smiling releases chemicals in your brain that can make you feel less depressed, and a chemical that works as a natural pain killer! So if you cannot muster a smile for the public, do it for yourself ... and your pocket!
2. Make Eye Contact
There is an old saying "the eyes are a mirror to ones soul", and while I don't know if that is true, I do know there is something very important about eye contact. Too much and you are creepy, but too little and you are come across as rude. You need to find your comfortable medium, and work it in naturally.
Look, I'm not saying you should get within an inch of your customers face and stare deeply into their eyes. Someone might find that interesting, but most are going to run in fear, and quite possibly change their locks the minute they get home. The point is not to scare them into paying you!
Career expert Kara Ronin gives this advice to people who are shy or find eye contact uncomfortable: draw an imaginary triangle around a persons eyes and mouth, every couple of seconds shift your gaze to another part of that triangle, this gives the impression of eye contact without making you feel uncomfortable.
3. Compliment Them Somehow
Wow, I absolutely adore that shirt, where did you get it if you don't mind me asking? Your necklace is very pretty! I love your shoes, they are adorable! I really like the way you have your hair, I have been thinking about doing something similar with mine! These are all appropriate ways to compliment someone, if they seem like the type of person who wants to be complimented!
You are stunningly beautiful and I wish I could find a girl who looks like you! You are so skinny, you look great! I want your watch! These are compliments you might say to a friend, but should avoid saying to a customer.
Some guests want to just eat in peace and leave. They don't care to have a waitress gushing over their sock color! If you are any good at your job, you will have a decent ability to read someone, and you should know who not to use this one on!
It is probably not a good idea to compliment a man who is with his wife or girlfriend if you are a woman, and a woman who is with her man if you are a guy. That is obviously not going to work out well in your favor, and you might lose your job after you get punched in the head!
Also, if you cannot work it into the conversation naturally, avoid it all together! You don't want to gaze fondly at a guests neck while drooling over their necklace! Creepy! If you can find a friendly and well meaning way to compliment someone go ahead and do it, but if you have to force it in like a wrong puzzle piece, skip this trick!
4. Pay Attention to Your Guest
I start to give a waitress my order, and she is looking at other tables or the door, I am now an unhappy guest. I don't want to feel like an inconvenience in a place where I chose to spend a lot of my hard earned money. I have chosen your restaurant out of a handful of other possible eateries, the least you could do is pay attention when I talk.
I know there are a million things you have to keep track of at each table, and you have multiple tables. Your looking for empty drinks and physical cues that someone needs something. However, when you are with your customer, you want to make them feel like they are the only table you have!
5. Tell A Joke
If you are one of those people who do the "A guy and an elephant sit on a barstool ... no wait ... they walked into the bar .... and then sat down .... anyways", you should probably not attempt any comic relief. This should only be done if you know you have a funny crowd pleasing joke, and if you are a funny person!
I have worked with people who can say "are you sure you really need that extra scoop of ice-cream" and get an uproar of laughter from the table. If I said that to someone they would walk out in tears.
If there are young kids at your table, a corny joke usually works well and if you get the kids to like you the parents will follow! Try this: What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer!
6. Touch Them Lightly
I am including this one even though I myself have a strict no touching rule. It just doesn't work for me, I come across weird or flirtatious and neither one is my intention. However, I have seen people who can put a hand on someone's shoulder or lightly brush their hand when handing them something, and they make it work!
The theory behind touching is that you are making a physical connection with someone, and it is something they will take notice of and remember when deciding how much to leave you as a tip. A lightly placed hand could mean the difference between two dollars and ten dollars. Or it could mean the difference between sexual harassment charges or a punch to the head!
If I was going to utilize this in my book of tricks, I would always be sure to touch the person of the same sex. For example, if I had a middle aged couple at my table, I would not touch the male. His wife is going to hate that, hate me, and never want to come back to the establishment. However, if I were to touch her somehow that would not feel as threatening to her. Vice verse if you are a male server.
7. Write a Small Note or Picture on Their Check
I love this idea, and use it every single day! I find that I do this more as a friendly gesture and less as a money making trick, because I want my guests to feel taken care of and cared about! This is a great way to do both of those things!
Around holidays I will draw cute pictures of Santa or the Easter Bunny, and Halloween is a lot of fun! I will look up what the day is on Google, and draw something about that. For example, if it is national cupcake day, I will draw a cupcake and include a little note about it. If there is something that has been said during the conversation, like we wanted to go to the beach today but couldn't, I will draw a quick sketch of a beach.
Dont throw yourself into the weeds doing this, and don't over do it! You don't want to come across as needy. Instead, your giving them a parting gift, something extra to say "I really care about your experience here today".
8. Don't Ignore Your Regulars
Some people want to come in on a lunch break, order, eat, and get the heck out of there. Others want to come in and have a good time, and some want the company that being surrounded by people provides. I can tell you that almost all of my regulars have chosen my resteraunt to come to because of the people and not the food. They have built relationships with the servers, they bring cookies, and give birthday presents.
Think of regular customers as your steady source of income, and the walk-ins as extra! Yes, you probably get a high volume of tourist traffic, but returning customers are the ones who keep the business afloat! You want them to keep coming back, and you don't want them to go somewhere else and like it better!
Don't take for granted that the Smiths come in every Tuesday night, because they could stop anytime they wanted to! Don't sigh when you see the Robbinsons coming because they are difficult to wait on, because they could be telling a hundred other people to come and eat there, or not to eat there!
You should always do your best for a customer, but really go the extra mile for a friendly face!
9. Be Who They Want
A gentlemen sits down by himself with a paper and quickly orders coffee, I am going to assume he wants to be left alone to read his paper. I am going to keep his cup full, and be there if and when he needs me to be.
A group of people sits down and they are laughing and smiling. I am going to joke around, find the clown of the group, and give him a hard time (because he is probably doing that to them most of the time). I am going to offer them the extra things like milkshakes and upsells because they are there to have a good time and will probably indulge.
A middle aged couple sits down and starts having a quiet conversation across the table. I am going to assume they are talking about something serious and stay out of it! I'm not going to ask "what are you guys up too today", because fighting might be the answer to that question. I'm going to be there without being there!
A woman sits down and looks kind of depressed, when I greet her she begins talking about her day. I am not going to sigh and look all over the restaurant because I don't really want to hear about her doctor visit. I am going to listen and offer sympathy or joy at what she is telling me. She could come back tomorrow with her family of twenty!
The moral here is to be who each customer needs you to be. Anyone can be a server, a monkey could do the physical part of the job, but not everyone can be a great sever! The difference between doing your job and doing a great job is having the ability to be a million different severs. One for each guest that walks through that door!
10. Wear Make-Up
Ugh, come on right? Like you really want another thing to add to the daily grind of employment? It's been proven though, men tip attractive women higher if they wear makeup! If you are visually appealing your going to make more money, and I am not saying that it's fair, but it's true!
11. Wear Something in Your Hair
So "something" may be a bit too vague of a word—sticking a banana peel out of your ponytail is not what I mean. Although, people might tip higher out of sympathy! Poor girl must have something really wrong with her Herb, give her a good tip! I mean it could work!
Seriously though, studies showed that people who wore a brightly colored bow or flower in their hair were tipped much better then when they didn't. It probably goes back to the visually appealing thing, and I will tell you from experience, it does work! One of my good friends asked me one day why I had a small flower in my hair, and I explained that it may help me get better tips. She said "well let me know if it works because if it does I am going to wear the whole dam bouquet in mine tomorrow"!
12. Repeat The Order Back
This actually helps you in a couple of ways, so it is one that should not be skipped! When you repeat an order back to them, it gives them a chance to make corrections or change their mind. This eliminates the possibility of it coming out wrong, or them being able to say "I didn't order that". Well, I repeated it and you didn't correct me, so yeah you did order that!
Second reason why this works? People love to be justified, and repetition is the highest form of flattery. Even something as small as repeating their order makes a person feel like they have done something right. So you want the sticky bun breakfast with easy eggs ... Great Choice! You know what, it is a great choice, I made a great choice, I cannot wait for this now! See where I am going with this.
13. Be Different and Quirky
It is hard to show your individuality when your wearing the same thing as ten other people around you. Uniforms really hinder a persons ability to showcase their personality, and for some this is a good thing! Still, you want to stand out and draw a person to you, so they may return to the business just to have you as a server!
If you are unique and different people will take notice, and it makes a good conversation starter! I work with a girl who is always wearing different pins, and now people will find and bring her unique pins to wear! Another one of my co-workers paints her nails in bright beautiful patterns. These small things can make a person really stand out, and cause a guest to take notice of them!
14. Give Them Something Small
If you give someone something they perceive as a gift, they are going to feel the need to reciprocate. This can be something as small as telling them you got the cook to give them an extra egg, or put extra strawberries on top of their waffle! Some people will give mints with the check, give candies, or give lollipops to the children at their tables.
I mean I would love it if I got a cute fluffy puppy with my Belgium Waffle, but that's just me! That server would get a great tip! We had a server give us cherry plums out of her personal lunch one day! We are her regulars and I was keen to her trickery, but it still was a really nice feeling!
15. Don't Play the Blame Game
Okay listen, no one likes a person who cannot admit their own faults. The food took a half hour in an empty restaurant, server brings said food finally and tells me the cook messed it up, did they though or did you forget to put in the check?
People are human and mistakes happen everyday. Chances are good your customer has made a few themselves today, so just be honest! Tell the truth! Oh no, pickles on your burger after you said no pickles? I told them! They must not have read their check, hold on! Okay, this does happen but sometimes it is not the cooks fault! I am so sorry I must have forgotten to let them know that, I will get you another one right away! You might want to throw in a free desert, the poor things got unwanted pickles for god sake's!
16. Introduce Yourself by Name
Make sure your guest knows your name, I will throw it out when I greet them and then again when I deliver their food. This way they know how to find me when or if they need to. I don't want them to have to sit there looking around trying to flag me down. I want them to yell my name loud and proud if they need something! I am here for you!
17. Be Quick!
I don't care if you have to pee so bad your teeth are floating, if they decided they do want more mayo, get it and quick! Put on your running shoes because that is what you are there for!
18. The Customer is Always Right
Newsflash! Right! Everyone who works with the general public knows this saying! Unfortunately, so does everyone who shops anywhere in the world! It's funny how this one saying has two meaning depending on which side you are on!
If your guest says they ordered it without mayo, they did! Even if you know they actually said extra mayo the first time, maybe they want everyone to think they are super health conscious!
Just don't argue with a guest and do what they ask, no questions asked! If you cannot do this, this is not the job for you!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.